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To study the physics and chemistry of the Earth and planetary atmospheres and of the interplanetary space, ground-based, balloon, rocket and satellite instruments are used.

Design and manufacturing of measurement instruments used in atmospheric research

Electronic engineering

Electronics play a key role in many space borne or ground based instruments because these instruments are often remotely controlled by digital telecommands, produce digital data or have some internal intelligence.

Mechanical engineering

Instruments need a structure to protect the essential electronic and optical components. Most instruments contain also mechanical parts, necessary for their functioning. This is the domain of mechanical engineering.

Testing

The mechanical and electronic accessories need to be tested before they are build in the instrument. Therefore, test facilities such as thermal vacuum chambers, are used.

Software

Nowadays almost all space instruments contain some microprocessor or programmable device based internal intelligence. To operate ground-based and space instruments, suitable software is necessary. Space instruments and often also ground-based equipment are controlled from a distance. The software therefore needs to involve multi-display handling of telecommands, telemetry and housekeeping.

When the atmospheric measuring instruments are in use

Operations and data management

Once a space instrument is launched and brought to full operation, a new range of tasks pops up. All observations need to be carefully planned in advance. The instrument in-flight operations are dependent on different parameters, such as measurement conditions, and the good functioning of the instrument is completely dependent on the conscientious execution of the telecommands. 

The return of the huge amount of data is also a challenge. The data need to be arranged and stored. They also have to be converted in formats, accessible to the scientists. Good data archiving is necessary to facilitate the work of the scientists, analyzing the data.

Maintenance

Ground based equipment and test versions of space experiments often last long. To keep them in excellent condition, maintenance on a regular basis is indispensable.

NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery) instrument for atmospheric research on Mars.